When the Fred Beans Family of Dealerships mentored its first small group of Central Bucks School District students for nine weeks in Spring 2000, only Central Bucks West and East high school seniors were involved. That year the business-school partnership was one of 40 programs in Pennsylvania chosen to exhibit at the Educational Excellence Fair. The program also became a scheduled course in the Central Bucks Schools’ curriculum.
When the last group of select young business students completed the series’ eleventh and final year on June 14, the 13 seniors and a single junior from all three Central Bucks high schools brought the total number of students who have met together to learn the many facets of a successful business to nearly 175.
The program has garnered praise from the students, the district and business and educational organizations. One of the largest and most respected automotive sales and service corporations in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Fred Beans organization operates seven dealerships in Doylestown alone, along with a range of adjunct services such as parts sales, collision services, vehicle rental, executive air transport and accounting. Such diversity makes for varied learning opportunities and experiences: this year 60 speakers and mentors from the Beans organization volunteered to participate.
“It opens the students’ eyes to many aspects of the automotive industry that they’d never considered,” says Nancy Stracione, executive assistant and coordinator of the mentoring program at Fred Beans. “We hope it makes their choices a little easier when it comes time to decide about their education and careers.”
From orientation through PowerPoint presentations
Applicants to the program are selected after a thorough evaluation of their business-course performance, overall grade-point average, behavior and maturity, attendance and the sincerity of their interest as determined by their résumés and personal interviews. While in the program, they follow an employee dress code and handbook policy for their on-site classes, held each afternoon.
A day of orientation prepares the students for what they can expect for the next nine weeks of rotations through the departments. The rotations include a variety of activities and encounters that typify the work experience, and a school district business instructor facilitates each class period. These instructional activities include lectures, guest speakers, videos, problem-solving activities, case studies and opportunities to discuss business issues and matters related to the mentoring arrangement.
Volunteers from the Beans organization give them a richer experience of the world of business and the automotive industry in particular. At the close of the program, the students are required to make short PowerPoint presentations describing their experiences.
History of the program
According to Stracione, the mentoring partnership grew out of a community breakfast hosted more than a decade ago by school district superintendent Dr. N. Robert Laws, who invited local businesses to become involved in the schools in new ways.
Asher Banning, an accounting and business law teacher at CB West, initially provided instruction and facilitated the program, which was developed by a team of school district staff members between May 1999 and spring of 2000. Virginia Kownurko, CB East business and computer applications teacher, joined the program in 2002. After Banning’s retirement, Kownurko ran it with Rosemarie Toub, business education teacher from CB West.
“It’s not unusual for a student to return to the company for a part-time job after the program is finished,” says Stracione. “One accounting student even continued at Fred Beans through her college years, then took a position on the full-time staff after graduation.”
Fred Beans always makes time to address the young people, sharing with them his business philosophy of integrity coupled with exceptional customer service, such as “I have one goal: to be really good at what we do. We need to consistently try to elevate the way we do business.”
He sent them off with one final piece of advice: “Leave here and make a difference in the world. At the end of the day, your parents will be judged by you.”
Bryan Stretton, Jamison, 18
David Tenaglia, Buckingham, 18
Tyler Conery, Jamison, 18
Andrew Jenkins, Doylestown, 18
Ryan Lamberger, Furlong, 18
Lexi Miller, Doylestown, 16 (the sole junior among the seniors participating)
Andrew Foltyn, Doylestown, 18
David Peoples, Doylestown, 18
Wes Fehr, Doylestown, 19
Mike Tamny, Chalfont, 17
Anthony Gallone, Warrington, 18
Will Haas, Warrington, 18
Luke Mason, Doylestown, 18
Jared Lance, Warrington, 17